Top court won’t hear appeal in fight over who pays for priests’ sex abuse

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The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear an appeal of a decision won by the insurer of the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corp. of St. John’s in a battle over who pays for compensating victims who were sexually abused by priests.

Father James Hickey is shown in these submitted photos. — Submitted photos

Today, the country’s top court dismissed the Episcopal Corp.’s request for leave to appeal, awarding court costs to Guardian Insurance Co. of Canada.

“Our position is we always felt the (Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador) Court of Appeal decision was right and proper and that it allows the determination of whether or not the Episcopal Corp. prior to obtaining the policy of insurance from our clients about the abuses carried by members of the clergy and in particular James Hickey,” said St. John’s lawyer Philip Buckingham, who represents Guardian.

The fight over who pays stretches to 1989 when a minor filed a claim against the Episcopal Corp. related to allegations of sexual abuse by James Hickey, a priest in the St. John's diocese, between 1982 and 1988.

A year before, Hickey, who died in 1992, had pleaded guilty to 20 charges of sexual assault, gross indecency and indecent assault involving teenage boys.

In evidence brought to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2011, Guardian, in defending its case in the suits, claimed church leaders were aware prior to 1980 of allegations against Father James Hickey and said the church is not acting in good faith in dealing with subsequent civil suits.

The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador sided with the Episcopal Corp. of St. John’s in ordering the insurer to honour its policy based on a 1992 ruling to do so. But in 2013, the Court of Appeal ruled instead in favour of Guardian.

A trial to determine what church officials knew about the abuse and when they knew it will get underway after January 2015.



Organizations: Episcopal, Supreme Court, Guardian Insurance Co. of Canada

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's

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Recent comments

  • Florence Parsons
    April 24, 2014 - 19:31

    Church officials: Forget about insurance and pay each victim of a priest or brother one million dollars. What would Jesus do? Sell some of your assets and take on YOUR responsibility. Don't say, "The church is the people." He who pays the piper calls the tunes. Who owns the assets?